[Bumped up from last week for visibility, comments opened for discussion and updated below.]
* From the legislative article of the Illinois Constitution…
A member shall receive a salary and allowances as provided by law, but changes in the salary of a member shall not take effect during the term for which he has been elected.
People have long argued that the legislative furloughs (required unpaid days) approved by the General Assembly in years past and the legislature’s nearly annual ritual vote to deny themselves statutory cost of living increases (except this year) both violated that constitutional provision forbidding salary changes during their terms in office.
* Democratic Sen. Michael Noland filed suit in 2017 to overturn the statutes ordering the furloughs and denying the COLAs. He was joined in 2018 by Sen. James Clayborne. Neither man is currently serving in the General Assembly.
Cook County Judge Franklin Valderrama sided with Noland and Clayborne yesterday on the constitutional issue. Click here to read the opinion granting partial summary judgement and Valderrama’s contention that there is “no genuine issue of material fact that the statutes are facially unconstitutional.”
Valderrama seemed to leave unresolved the question about whether the comptroller should be ordered to pay the money owed. A status hearing has been set for August.
* From Comptroller Mendoza…
In a complex and unfortunate ruling this week, a judge said former Senator Mike Noland can proceed with his disgraceful and selfish attempt to vacuum up taxpayer money he voted repeatedly not to accept.
I strongly oppose Noland’s shameless money-grab and will fight it, either through an appeal, or in this court as the remaining counts proceed. We will work with Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office to review this week’s ruling and our legal options.
Noland’s case perfectly illustrates why voters don’t trust politicians. His legislative pension, combined with his new judicial salary and pension, should more than suffice. This is another sad week for Illinois taxpayers.
Noland originally filed the lawsuit in 2017, seeking back pay for himself and “all others impacted” by the eight bills lawmakers passed to give up the annual cost-of-living raises they are automatically granted under state law. The lawsuit, which Clayborne joined as a plaintiff last year, also takes issue with unpaid furlough days lawmakers approved for themselves each year from 2009 through 2013.
The judge did not order Mendoza to issue checks to anyone, and he scheduled another hearing in the case for Aug. 7.
Noland, a Kane County judge who served in the state Senate from 2007 through 2017, and Clayborne, an attorney who served from 1995 until this year, issued a written statement Thursday saying they were pleased with the outcome.
“Just as Illinois courts held that the Illinois Constitution prohibits using the salaries of judges and legislators as a political football by the Governor and Comptroller to advance a political agenda, members of the General Assembly cannot cut their own salaries on a mid-term basis to curry favor with voters,” the statement said. “It is our hope that the Circuit Court decision will be followed and the impacted legislators will be paid what they are due.”